I was watching “Tinkerbell” with my daughters today and unfortunately I’ve seen it so many times that my brain clicks into Editor Mode. It starts pointing out the plot holes and mistakes, so I find I have to go do something to distract myself from it!
This time, I decided to clean the grill.
As I was doing that, I realised that “Tinkerbell” is about girls with Aspergers. Now I can see all the Mum’s getting up in arms and shouting “It’s about a brand new fairy who is trying to find herself.”
And they are right, it is about that. But it is also about a girl who has been thrust into a new world, not understanding why she feels like she doesn’t fit.
My eldest daughter is nine. She has two years left at Primary School (they start high school at eleven around here) before she is pushed by her age into High School. She is also developing physically more quickly that her peers. To add to that, she is showing signs of Aspergers, so she is going through testing to check if it is that or something similar.
She has already admitted to feeling very out of place in her peer group.
A girl with Aspergers is difficult to spot. Girls are generally social creatures and when they are young, those in the group who are good at Social Behaviour will help their peers who aren’t. Girls are also emotionally biased, so they understand outbursts of high emotion and can help those friends that suffer with them cope. Thus a girl with Aspergers will be taught by her peers how to act.
And act is exactly what she does. By the time she hits high school, she is so well camouflaged that adults rarely see her for what she actually is.
So why is “Tinkerbell” about girls with Aspergers?
Consider the plot:
A girl is thrust into a new world. She is told that she is a Tinker and that her life, from now on, will be about making pots and pans. But she doesn’t feel as if she quite fits in.
She makes friends who are pretty, well dressed and have more interesting jobs. Then she is told that these girls can also go off and have adventures.
Of course, she wants to do that too. She is quickly smacked back down when she tries to follow her nature and get to have adventures.
Still feeling that she doesn’t fit in as a Tinker, she tries to change who she is, to become like the other girls. Everything that follows is an obvious effect of trying to go against her nature and just makes her more unhappy.
Eventually she realises this and gives up, but not before the local bully, who is jealous of all the attention the Tinker is getting, helps her to wreck everything that the others have built.
Finally, the girl works out a way of fixing what she has wrecked by going with her nature rather than against it. She thinks about the problem from outside the box and shows why she was chosen to be a tinker in the first place.
Her reward is to be allowed to join her friends on their adventure.
Tinkerbell is our girl with Aspergers – she looks the same as the other girls physically, but knows that inside she is different. She thinks about things differently and can’t understand why, once she has learned to fit in, she still doesn’t feel right; like a jigsaw puzzle piece that is the right shape but with the wrong picture.
Now imagine our “Tinkerbell” moving from warm, comfortable Primary School (the old world) to cold, hard, High School (being reborn as a student.) She may have learned to fit in with her Primary friends, but at High School, the social scene is different. She is just different enough to garner attention from those who don’t like difference and may well get bullied (like Tinkerbell and Vidia) and her response is, more often than not, will try on different natures.
Our Tinkerbell will be Goth one minute, a sporty girl the next. She will change styles as fast as possible, trying to find that elusive hole to fit into so that she isn’t picked on anymore.
It may end up in a train wreck of a situation; or sometimes our girl will find her spot and get comfortable again. Her reward will be friends and a life she can relax into again.
Most often though, our Tinkerbell will take a long time to find her spot, her real nature.
Why have I written about this today?
Well, I watch my daughter at Brownies and School and I can see that, while she is comfortable in her current hole, when she goes to High School, she will be lost again. So over the summer, we picked one of her interests (music and singing) and sent her to a Theatre School Summer Camp.
She’d found the right picture to match her shape. My daughter will still find High School difficult, but by sending her to Theatre School at the weekends, she will be able to cope with whatever the social scene throws at her and hopefully, she won’t need to go against her nature to find where she fits in at school.
If you have a child with Aspergers I can recommend the following books – they really opened our eyes to how NOS sees the world and how PT can be helped to navigate around the social scene of High School –
2 thoughts on “Tinkerbell, Aspergers and fitting in…”
Hi Mandy. A very interesting and thought-provoking article. I don’t have kids but I do have Aspergers and have always had trouble fitting in and feeling different from my peers. I always gravitated towards the company of older people. I haven’t seen this Tinkerbell film but I can relate to what you say about it. Getting a diagnosis is difficult if you’re female because the diagnostic criteria are based on male behaviours. I hope that PT continues to enjoy theatre school and wish her well for the future. When I was her age Aspergers wasn’t recognised.
I’m glad that you liked the article – its amazing what can pop into the mind when you’re cleaning!
On a serious note though; it’s getting easier to get girls diagnosed as long as they are under 18. Once you’re through the barrier between child and adult, it becomes seriously difficult to get anyone diagnosed, no matter whether they are male or female.
We had to jump through hoops just to get TOH diagnosed. Even though he’s only mildly affected by it, it makes a difference to him – he now knows that the things he goes through are because his mind works differently, rather than depression or panic.
A diagnosis doesn’t “cure” you; there is no “cure” for something that is mostly a matter of genetics / brain chemistry, but it does help Neurotypicals to understand why you are that way.
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